Aspirational Personal Branding Shouldn’t Be a Thing

Have you done it? Yeah, you have. I’ve done it too; scrolled through too many glossy social posts, the ones that entice me to love my urban lifestyle, outdoor adventure, fitness and indulgence. And if I don’t embrace these obviously very reasonable things that influencers are telling me I should, then clearly I’m only half the person I thought I was.

Social media is an unapologetic, equal-opportunist when it comes to praying on delicate egos. Even if we intellectually realize that not a single human can be all things, all at the same time, who hasn’t let the ‘gram get the best of our often fragile sense of self?

I will wager that any influencer’s enviable online persona would not truly align with that person’s daily offline life. Nobody is a superhuman, not even Beyoncé (I know, heresy, but I’m willing to risk the heat I’ll take for that). We live in a world where aspiration is the new norm, yet we’re left with disappointment when our aspirational desires are not realized. Or worse, even if they are fulfilled, we have already moved onto the next aspirational item on our wish list.

Gone Catfishin’

Aspirational Design in a Branded World

In our photoshopped, nipped and tucked world, Short believes that we are caught up in an aspirational design trend where too many products, like Fitbit and the iPhone, essentially communicate to consumers, “this is who you should be”. Short hopes that the next step in the design evolution actually moves backward, where designers spend more time creating products for how people actually are, right now.

Just as Short would say that good design should support the people we are today, the best personal brands reflect the authentic you — not a 180-degree diversion from it.

An authentic personal brand is like anti-aspirational design.

Brand New Brand You

If you have led your company in jeans and flats for the last ten years, and now some consultant has advised you to don a designer dress out of an episode of “Suits,” something won’t match up. People will detect how uncomfortable you feel in your fake boss-lady-lawyer-outfit when, in actuality, you are a real boss lady, and an epic one at that! So, don’t lose the jeans and flats, just wear their upgraded relatives in this new version of your grown up, streamlined self.

Similarly, if Consultant X tells you to lose the jacket and tie you’ve worn for the last ten years so you can appear more “personable,” lose the consultant.

If you want customers to identify with your personal brand, find the balance between elevating what you’ve got and what still feels emotionally true to you. Not the simplest task, but if something is off in the mix, you will feel it. And if the balance is right, you won’t feel anything except exactly like yourself.

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